Not only a popular sport, fishing is a treasure trove of collectables. Vintage fishing floats tell the history of fishing and make an excellent addition to any antiques collection. Made from a wide array of materials, with each material valued for its own artistry and design, vintage fishing floats are sought-after souvenirs. Not only beautiful, these fishing floats are an affordable collector's item for the astute investor and still widely available throughout the UK.
One of the earliest float designs, quill floats are made from feathers with long shafts—goose quill was a popular choice. As the sport progressed, anglers substituted hedgehog and porcupine quills for bird feathers. The organic material used means that older versions are increasingly rare. Collectors still find quill floats in collections of older anglers.
Most people are familiar with the large glass fishing floats that commercial fleets used in the early 20th century. What many people do not know is that small round glass floats are the early version of the modern bubble float. Commonly used in Norway in the mid-1800s and Japan in the early 1900s, glass floats became popular with British anglers from 1920 onwards. Now collected for the beauty more than their function, glass bubble floats come in a variety of colours and sizes. Still very reasonably priced, glass floats are a classic addition to any fishing float collection.
Inexpensive and accessible, cork floats reached the height of popularity in the early to mid-1900s. Easily shaped with a knife and cut in a variety of sizes, vintage cork floats were highly individualised. The ability to alter the cork to adjust to particular fishing conditions made them extremely popular. Although not as highly prized as glass bubble floats or waggler floats, cork floats are truly unique and worthy of collecting in their own right.
The most common type, vintage stick floats come in a variety of materials. They are highly prized for their style and finishing. Stick floats have two parts: a light, buoyant top and a heavy bottom. Vintage float bottoms made of native hardwoods were topped with reed, bamboo, or balsa wood. Although called stick floats, the floats actually hold a fine taper at both ends. Sleek and slim, the stick float is one of the oldest float designs. It attaches to a fishing line at both ends, requiring fine boreholes at either end, the sign of an experienced artisan. Collectors value the quality artisanship of these designs, and sellers command high prices for unique stick floats.